Letters to the editor

Dump these candidates

As a registered Democrat, I am appalled at some of the candidates offered to voters. For example, in 1996, a sacrificial lamb [Harvey Gantt] was pitted against Congressman Charles H. Taylor. This year, it is Buncombe County Commissioner David Young.

Rep. Taylor’s weak point is his dismal environmental record, but Mr. Young’s is even worse: He voted for the sacrilegious new county dump in Alexander!

This dump is environmentally and economically indefensible –but for proof of the poor planning involved, just drive to the site. The access is by S.R. 251, a narrow, winding, two-lane road (originally named … a Scenic By-Way by the state), now crowded with garbage trucks, tankers and 18-wheelers. There is not an inch to spare, and the trucks cannot cross the old, narrow bridge over Flat Creek or turn up the decrepit Panther Branch Road without using both lanes.

In addition to traffic hazards, area residents now have air-and-noise pollution, climate change, devastated property values, and almost-certain groundwater contamination.

Just how, and at what cost, does Mr. Young propose to pipe in potable water through these mountains? Or will the land be abandoned, like the Love Canal area was?

Another Democrat, Mr. Steve Metcalf, is running for state Senate. Mr. Metcalf was instrumental in the siting of the Alexander dump.

Voters deserve better — and, hopefully, they will dump both Mr. Young and Mr. Metcalf.

— Mrs. Edgar Lyngholm
Alexander

Marijuana battle underscores the need for democratic process

I am responding to your Sept. 30 commentary on repealing marijuana laws in the city of Asheville [“City Council cracks down on compassion,” by Dixie Deerman and Steven Rasmussen], City Council’s reaction to this commentary, and the Asheville Police Department’s actions at City Council’s meeting on Aug. 25.

Personally, I find the hemp advocates’ agenda selfish and very low on the list of problems we need to address. Though it is true that government agencies spend too much money enforcing marijuana laws, and that the legalization of marijuana could have some benefits — the truth of the matter is that there are much graver concerns in this world than whether already well-cared-for, well-paid Americans should be able to smoke pot.

We have a collapsing world economy, a major senate race in North Carolina, a media and an independent council that has gone over the top with its coverage and investigation of the presidential scandal, etc.

I would suggest that the people who challenged City Council should redirect their time and energy into something more pointed and useful, something with a little more scope.

However, this does not mean that hemp advocates, or anybody else, should not be heard at City Council meetings. This is a basic constitutional right not to be trampled on. Local government is the best way for citizens to voice their concerns. To take that away only furthers people’s distrust of government.

The members of City Council are the ones in Asheville with political connections. Obviously, they do not have the authority to repeal the laws, as the hemp advocates would have them do. Drug laws reach all the way up to the highest levels of government. But my point is that City Council members know who to talk to and what channels to take to begin the process of political change.

None of this is to say that when people present their ideas at meetings, they should not be respectful of the protocol that exists there. From my understanding of the incident between hemp advocates and the City Council, it was the hemp advocates who overstepped their bounds. City Council should not be forced to hear long diatribes about the usefulness and benefits of marijuana, when there is other business to conduct. The hemp advocates should have used a more reasonable and succinct approach.

But, then again, City Council should not have reacted so strongly by setting limitations on who can speak in their meetings. In my mind, it makes them look very bad to come out with a policy of excluding people who have something to say, but who are not presenting the Council’s agenda. How is a free exchange of ideas ever to occur if citizens cannot say, at the local level, what is important to them? I urge City Council to repeal its policy of exclusion.

But most disgusting in all of this are the actions of the Asheville Police Department. I hardly find it appropriate for law-enforcement officers to conduct an investigation during a public forum such a City Council meeting. This is simply the worst sort of bullying imaginable. It is hysterical, and it is a disgrace to our town, that people who are trying to present their political ideas should fall under such monitoring.

I understand that the Police Department has a job to do. I don’t fault them for this, but I wish they would use some discretion as to where they do it.

Out of all of this, I’m reminded of something James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, #51. In describing the separation of powers in the Constitution, he says that “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Here in Asheville, we have three groups interested in themselves who are at odds with each other. We should not look at this conflict as necessarily evil, but we should see it as an opportunity to use this tension as a means of resolving differences.

The true American way, though it seems so obscured at times, is compromise between individuals and groups who think completely differently. This is a basic tenet of our system, and we would all do well to consider its genius for a moment.

But I don’t see that happening here. I wish it would.

— Scott Latimore
Asheville

Get off consumption’s treadmill, and on the road to prosperity

I appreciated hearing that someone else is concerned about our current societal trends, namely consumption [Bill Branyon’s letter, published Sept. 30]. I do not, however, completely agree with Mr. Branyon’s idea that we should no longer shop at Neiman Marcus, and [instead] start shopping at Wal-Mart.

I agree with the idea that we should stop supporting these overpriced companies, which produce either equal or inferior items, as compared to their more reasonably priced counterparts.

In retrospect, the fact that “about 50 percent of Americans avoid Wal-Mart whenever possible” shows me that more Americans have finally decided to vote with their dollars, as opposed to accepting whatever is “most convenient.” Wal-Mart might have “miles of aisles of miraculous products,” but what about the rest of the story — like all the wetlands that were disturbed so my hometown could have its third Wal-Mart (within a 30-mile radius), or the origin of their products, or the low wages that Wal-Mart pays to its “dispensable” employees? To stop shopping at high-priced stores and start shopping at more reasonably priced stores will not fix this nebulous problem.

A more formidable solution would be to start shopping at a more local level, supporting local businesses.

An even better solution, however, lies in people evaluating the differences between needs and wants.

The problem is not our massive amount of consumption, but the fact that our society is economically based. Consumerism, which is the way to sustain an economy such as ours, has become the basis of our society, pushing out the other aspects of what a society truly is — namely, the working … toward a common goal. This goal is still essentially the same: universal prosperity. Our society is just not working toward that, anymore. It values money [more] than life itself (including both human and nonhuman life).

If we would change our view of this economic system — and, in the course of this paradigm shift, alter the foundation of our society — we could return to our path of universal prosperity.

It has become extremely evident to me that the gap between needs and wants has become larger than ever in human history. There once was a time when humans had enough means to live a comfortable, meaningful life. Maybe somewhere along the way someone got the idea that if we now have enough for a comfortable life, what would happen if we had more? Would we become more comfortable? The answer, unfortunately, was no. What has happened has been a movement toward a more complicated lifestyle.

There are things on the market which, if we use them, should help us “save time”; however, this goal has not been met. Our current society has never been so busy! … In essence, [we are] running in a consumer’s circle, a sort of economic treadmill. Basically, what is happening is that most of us no longer have time for what is really essential for living a meaningful life. We have become a specialized people, able to perform only certain tasks — therefore becoming dependent upon that which we do not understand, and enslaved to this ceaseless economic treadmill.

Mr. Branyon is right: We no longer — nor did we ever — have to “await whatever new gizmo Madison Avenue wants to sell” us. We could use the means [already at hand], which we ordinarily use on “not-needed” items, to help our brothers and sisters, whom we have forgotten for too long.

If we really want to help others, however, we need to start with ourselves. If we all take a look at what is essential to a healthy, meaningful life, take the time to understand it and practice it, we will be doing a greater good to the reformation of our society than if we try to solve all the problems of the world. … If we want to change the world, we must begin by changing ourselves.

— M. L. Olivier
Asheville

North Carolina’s air needs Tennessee’s offer

This is an example of why the governor should sign the Tennessee Memorandum of Understanding now.

Cardinal IG operates 15 glass factories in the United States. Recently, Cardinal submitted plans for a new plant in Mooresville, 60 miles from Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and 20 miles north of Charlotte. Cardinal’s three 150-foot smokestacks will spread pollution over a wide area. Cardinal’s management claims that installing better pollution control will cost too much money. But the Clean Air Act requires industry to use the best available control technology for the reduction of acid rain, smog and toxic air pollution.

North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources will accept comments until Oct. 15. Cardinal’s plant was not good enough for Virginia; Cardinal should be required to do better in our state.

Here’s some data from the draft permit: Cardinal’s plant would be permitted to emit 3,440,000 pounds of air pollution in the first year of operation, including nitrogen oxides (NOx)), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter (PM). Also, toxic air emissions of arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4) would be permitted. Here’s the list of emissions in the first year:
NOx — 2.4 million pounds
SO2 — 440,000 pounds
PM — 350,000 pounds
CO — 197,000 pounds
VOCs — 22,000 pounds
Lead — 80 pounds
Nickel — 70 pounds
Arsenic — 105 pounds
Cadmium — 87 pounds
Sulfuric Acid — 13,140 pounds

Air-pollution experts at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia rejected Cardinal’s claim that the new plant would have the lowest emissions of any glass plant in the country. Here’s what Shenandoah National Park Air Resource Program Manager Christi Gordon said: “National Park Service engineers — after careful review of the draft air-quality permit and supporting engineering analysis — have different findings. Cardinal is still not planning to use the best available control technology.”

— Lou Zeller
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
Glendale Springs

U.S. Forest Service’s Freudian slip

On Monday, Sept. 28. John Boyle of the Asheville Citizen-Times reported on the regrettable incident of vandalism at the U.S. Forest Service offices. In his short article, Boyle refers to “environmental terrorists” four times and “environmentalists” three times, yet not a shred of evidence exists to support U.S. Forest Service claims that this vandalism was the act of a member of the forest-protection movement.

Since the U.S. Forest Service, itself, was so ready to use the term “ecoterrorism” in naming suspects, it seems appropriate to give some background about the person responsible for coining this phrase. This person, Barry Robert Clausen, is an industry spin-doctor and propagandist who owns North American Research, a one-man operation based in Port Orford, Wash. He is exclusively dedicated to promoting the myth of “ecoterror.”

In 1990, Clausen was hired by timber interests to find incriminating information about Earth First!. After a fruitless investigation, the Washington Contract Loggers Association terminated Clausen’s contract, because he failed to produce any actual evidence of environmental terrorism and got into legal trouble with Montana’s Park County Sheriff’s Department. Since then, he has made a career of smearing the environmental movement with the charge of “terrorism.”

Originally based in Montana, Clausen moved to Washington state after [he had] legal trouble with local law enforcement. Most recently, he has tried to blame environmentalists for the actions of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski. He is dismissed by law enforcement and legitimate investigators as a rogue and an opportunist.

Clausen represents himself to the media as a “Seattle-based private investigator.” However, Clausen has never held a private investigator’s license in Washington state, nor has he registered his company, North American Research, as required by state law. Clausen claims to have worked for various law-enforcement agencies, but under oath was forced to admit that he has no background in law enforcement. Clausen has claimed that he was “employed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as an informant,” but under oath he has admitted that this is not true. According to the U.S. Forest Service, Clausen has impersonated U.S.F.S. personnel.

In addition to his industry ties, Clausen has had a number of controversial affiliations. Since 1994, he has worked closely with the network of Lyndon LaRouche, the neo-fascist leader, convicted tax felon and perennial presidential candidate. He has written for LaRouche’s 21st Century Science and Technology magazine and, during the mid-‘9Os, published a newsletter, Ecoterror Watch, with LaRouchian Rogello Maduro. Clausen is also closely associated with anti-environmental activist Ron Arnold, who collaborated on Clausen’s 1994 book about Earth First!, Walking on the Edge.

According to Tarso Luis Ramos, research director of the Western States Center, “Barry Clausen is a fraud who aims to discredit the environmental movement by any means necessary. His is a cynical effort to frighten and confuse Americans rightfully concerned about domestic terrorism.”

There is no legitimate category of crimes called “ecoterrorism.” You will not find it in Webster’s or, for that matter, in the FBI’s annual reports on terrorism. Barry Clausen simply made it up.

When the U.S. Forest Service uses terms coined by propagandists like Clausen, its allegiance to industrial forestry becomes obvious. We should expect more from a public agency entrusted with the protection of this nation’s natural heritage.

— Andrew George, executive director
Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project
Asheville

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